A heartbreaking video of a half-clothed patient dumped at a bus stop during an extremely cold night in Baltimore has sparked outrage at a hospital’s callous attitude.
The video, which was filmed outside University of Maryland Medical Center, is very disturbing both for the misery of the poor woman and the events that led up to her abandonment.
The incident was caught on camera by bystander Imamu Baraka and showed a young woman, wearing only a hospital gown that barely covered her and socks, standing by a bus stop as four men in uniform, possibly hospital security guards, walked away with a wheelchair. The woman could barely stand on her feet and seemed unable to talk.
Baraka followed the men and confronted them about why they were leaving the woman outside in the cold.
"Wait, so you all are just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?" he asked. "That is not OK."
“That is not OK,” he yelled after them.
To that, one of the men replied, “due to the circumstances of what happened… She was ... medically discharged.”
“Then you all need to call the police,” replied Baraka, who is himself a licensed psychotherapist.
The young woman seemed to be in a daze and had trouble speaking — but she did scream. Baraka eased her into sitting at the bus stop, where the guards had left two plastic bags filled with the women’s belonging and a pair of her shoes.
The temperature in Baltimore was in the 30s on the night the video was recorded and the sidewalk was spattered with unmelted snow and salt.
“This is disgusting that they would just leave her unattended on a bus stop, half-naked,” Baraka said in the video. “And it’s got to be at least 40 degrees, if not colder.”
When Baraka started recording next, the woman could be seen staggering into the night and screaming.
The video, which was posted on Facebook, set off an avalanche of online fury and disbelief as people called out the hospital staff for their uncaring, heartless attitude toward patients.
Afterwards, Baraka explained, he called an ambulance and told them to take the woman back to the hospital. He also said the woman may have been “unruly” and that may have been the reason the hospital decided to drop her off. But he said they should have admitted the woman until they could confirm “what’s happening.”
"You can't expect those with mental health issues to be pleasant. Because they're ill," he says. "I am disgusted by the lack of empathy that I am seeing displayed."
However, the practice of forcefully releasing patients who have nowhere to go is not a rare occurrence; in fact, it is far from it. “Patient dumping” happens all across the country and violates a 1986 federal law that requires hospitals to discharge patients into a safe environment.
“This kind of behavior is, I think, both illegal and I’m sure immoral,” said Arthur L. Caplan, founder of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine. “You don’t just throw someone out into the street who is impaired and may have injuries. You try to get them to the best place possible, and that’s not the bench in front of the hospital.”
The practice was rampant two decades ago when the law remained largely unimplemented. And in California, which is home to more than one-fourth of the total homeless population of the United States, the issue pops up from time to time.
People who watched the video wondered what happened to the woman once she was taken back by the hospital, but a spokesman said they could not reveal that as “patient privacy regulations restrict us from providing any details."
The medical facility has also released a statement apologizing for the way the woman was treated.
"We share the shock and disappointment of many who have viewed the video showing the discharge of a patient from the Emergency Department of UMMC Midtown the night of January 9. This unfortunate event is not representative of our patient-centered mission," the UMMC said. "While there are many circumstances of this patient's case that we cannot address publicly, in the end we clearly failed to fulfill our mission with this patient, no matter the circumstances of her case or the quality of the clinical care we provided in the hospital (which is not depicted in the video). We are taking this matter very seriously, conducting a thorough review, and are evaluating the appropriate response, including the possibility of personnel action."
However, this was not enough to appease the public, who took to social media to express their rage.
Y'all wanna boycott something worthwhile? Boycott University of Maryland Medical Center for discharging a woman into 30 degree weather leaving her disoriented and confused on a bus stop with nothing but a hospital gown on. https://t.co/XDw5Oglu2H— Stevie G. (@stevechristo_) January 11, 2018
Absolutely reprehensible! Shame on University of Maryland Medical Center! https://t.co/KVC4ETtfYt— Monica Simms (@MonicaSimms2) January 10, 2018
University of Maryland Medical Center - they even tried to victim-shame in their statement. Disgusting. https://t.co/blrX5mcmEs— Andrea Buonincontro (@abuonin) January 11, 2018
Staff of University of Maryland Medical Center dumped a sick black woman in the freezing cold in her gown. This is the mission of @UMMC. They should read it. A place where we go to heal is so mired in the horrors of rabid capitalism & callous US healthcare system that fails many. pic.twitter.com/TDrhEvXTpS— Rucha Chitnis (@ruchachitnis) January 11, 2018
Apparently University of Maryland Medical Center has a “treat and street” policy that says it’s okay to dump... https://t.co/GcBca0HQyL— Rashida Braxton (@HotMamaShida) January 10, 2018